On the surface, policies may seem dry, pedestrian documents which are easy to overlook until there is an issue. I was a sessional lecturer for over 10 years and no one ever referred me to policies as a significant part of their institutional identity and educational values.
Now, I review and help construct policies for various institutions and I have been impressed by the ways in which their beliefs in regard to student experience shine through the language of some of these documents. Take, for example, assessment policies, which often refer to the focus on equity and authenticity. This emphasis then carries through to procedures and, hopefully, practice.
We must consider that some studies estimate that around 70% of classes are taught by sessional staff and, increasingly, subjects are developed or amended by these staff. It would be interesting to see how many sessional staff are introduced to key policies as a way of understanding the institutional values and the ways they inform development and teaching. I suspect that they are not an integral part of induction or used as more than a perfunctory reference by staff at the coalface, when they should be an integral part of institutional discourse.
When faced with the current challenges, and seeking innovative ways to engage students, it is important to base solutions in the unique values of your institution. Take some time to refer to policies as more than guides, but as inspiration for your next stage of growth. If your policies have dated and no longer reflect your institutional values and culture, or perhaps have become rhetoric rather than drivers of practice, it may be time to review them. DVE Business Solutions would be happy to talk with you about creating relevant and inspirational policies.
–Dr Deborah Churchman, Senior Consultant